Laois recovered from being nine points down in the first half to edge out 14-man Westmeath in a pulsating Division 1 relegation play-off in Portlaoise.
Laois started the brighter and the first of PJ Scully's four successful '65’s left them ahead by 0-05 to 0-02 with eight minutes elapsed, Westmeath having already spurned three good point opportunities. However, four unanswered points quickly edged the visitors ahead.
On the quarter-hour mark, Noel Conaty pulled off a great save from Paddy Purcell at the expense of a ‘65’ which Scully converted to tie up the scoring at 0-06 apiece.
Westmeath then upped the gears considerably and they scored eight points without reply between the 16th and 26th minutes, five of them coming from the Doyle twins – Killian (four, including two frees) and Ciaran (one).
Laois got a soft goal against the run of play in the 30th minute, with Ross King firing the ball into an unguarded net at the end of a delivery by Charles Dwyer. Two minutes later, former Galway player, Davy Glennon, who was on song in the Lake County attack, was denied a goal by a brave save from Enda Rowland.
Westmeath suffered a major blow in the 35th minute when wing back Aaron Craig was red-carded, but his side still deservedly led by 0-18 to 1-09 at the interval.
Westmeath manager Shane O’Brien was yellow-carded before play recommenced, but despite being a man down his troops were still six points to the good at the second water break (0-24 to 1-15), three of their additional points coming from the stick of impressive full forward Niall O’Brien.
However, Laois kept whittling down the lead with Scully unerring from placed balls. Seven unanswered points put ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett’s men ahead in the 62nd minute (1-22 to 0-24) and they still led by a point with the 70 minutes elapsed.
A minimum of five minutes’ added-time was announced during which Willie Dunphy was dismissed after picking up a second yellow card. Wing back Jack Kelly came good with a great brace of points to put side a goal clear (1-26 to 0-26).
A foul on Glennon gave Derek McNicholas a chance to level the contest but his rasping shot went over the crossbar, and that man Scully sealed a famous win with his 17th point of the evening in the dying moments.
Laois: Enda Rowland; Donnchadh Hartnett, Matthew Whelan, Sean Downey; Podge Delaney, Ciaran McEvoy, Jack Kelly (0-02); James Keyes, Fiachra C Fennell; Paddy Purcell (0-01), Willie Dunphy (0-02), Ciaran Collier; PJ Scully (0-17, 10f, 4 ‘65), Charles Dwyer (0-03), Ross King (1-02).
Subs: Aaron Dunphy for Collier (27), James Ryan for Whelan (h-t), Ciaran Comerford for Keyes (58), Eoin Gaughan for A Dunphy (70), John Lennon for Purcell (70 + 4).
Westmeath: Noel Conaty; Darragh Egerton, Tommy Gallagher, Conor Shaw; Aaron Craig, Tommy Doyle, Aonghus Clarke (0-01); Cormac Boyle, Robbie Greville; Davy Glennon, Killian Doyle (0-11, 6f, 1 ‘65’), Joey Boyle (0-01); Ciaran Doyle (0-02), Niall O’Brien (0-07), Niall Mitchell (0-01).
Subs: Josh Coll for C Boyle (h-t), Kevin Regan (0-01) for J Boyle (h-t), Derek McNicholas (0-03, 0-01 pen) for C Doyle (49), Shane Clavin for Shaw (55), Darragh Clinton for Coll (66), Shane Williams for K Doyle (70 +2).
Referee: Patrick Murphy (Carlow).